The transformation of the Indiana Pacers from perennial playoff team and contender to bad joke has been painful. The toughest part as a fan is knowing who to blame. Walsh and Bird took a big gamble on RonRon, and it couldn't have blown up more spectacuarly. At the same time, they were a couple of late playoff injuries away from going to finals. There was the brawl, but David Stern and the officials at the game were about as responsible for long term impact on the team as Jackson and Artest were. Jermaine O'Neal has been hurt alot, so I don't blame him. I don't get to watch the team enough to know if their apparent lack of metal toughness is Carlisle's fault or not, but it seems to me like this team has quit on him.
I suppose this means that I don't have anything particuarly insightful to add. I can't figure out for the life of me what this team needs, but I suspect it won't be easy to find. The NBA builds it's champions out of superstars. We lucked into Reggie Miller who defined this franchise for years. Jermaine O'Neal has had his tenure as the 'face' of the franchise undermined by a series of nut jobs. The Pacers are going to have to find that guy who can push his teammates to the next level. Merely shuffling spare parts around (yeah, I mean you Dunleavy) isn't going help.